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VIDEOS: A day in the life of the Dublin Airport Fire Service

Training, bird scaring and speeding across the runway for an emergency callout – there’s never a dull moment at the DAA fire station.
Mar 29th 2013, 6:45 AM 12,111 38

THE DUBLIN AIRPORT Authority (DAA) Fire Service operates 24/7 and 365 days a year with an average of 16 to 19 firefighters in the station prepared to attend an incident at any time.

The service is separate from the Dublin Fire Brigade as it is a specialised aviation fire service and so it has different legislation to follow. The main rule for the DAA service is that its response time must be no longer than three minutes from the station to any point at the airport. It is vital, if there is an incident with an aircraft in particular, that a crew arrives on the scene quickly to avoid the situation escalating out of control.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, fire officer Gerry Keogh said the crews have to be ready to deal with any situation, whether that’s a fire on an aircraft, a road traffic collision or a casualty at the airport.

“The response time is a big thing, purely because of the fact that if we’re going to an aircraft full of passengers and full of fuel, there’s potential there for something very serious,” he said.

A regular shift at the fire station starts at 7am with the first briefing of the day. Crews are brought up to date with the events of the day ahead and any safety issues or construction activity they have to be aware of.

Then the crews have breakfast and spend around two hours checking equipment to ensure that it’s ready to go whenever needed. When the alarm sounds, everyone drops what they are doing and heads straight to the truck.

Runway inspections are carried out all throughout the day looking for fallen objects that could damage an aircraft.

“They’re out there basically looking for anything that shouldn’t be out there, even down to pebbles and stones, but there have been screwdrivers found on the runway as well,” Keogh said. “They’re looking to ensure that there’s not anything on the runway that could be sucked into the engine, which is like a big vacuum when it’s on full power.”

Another important part of the fire service’s job at the airport is clearing the large flocks of birds from the runway. “We have various methods of scaring them,” Keogh said. “Birds are very intelligent though and they get used to some of the stuff so we have to have to try different things. We have firecrackers that are shot in the air to scare them but we have a shotgun for the more persistent birds.”

Keogh stressed that the shooting of birds is strictly regulated by the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the fire service has a consultant ornithologist to study any birds found on the runway that have struck a plane. Dead bird remains are collected, tagged and kept in a large freezer in the fire station for reference. Don’t worry, we didn’t photograph that.

“If we have a bird strike, we like to find out why the bird was at the airport in the first place to it’s sent off for a postmortem so we can see why they’re coming, if we’re attracting them in some way food-wise and how to keep them away,” Keogh explained. “Most likely a bird strike will happen taking off or coming in, multiple strike are rare and a single strike is unlikely to take down an aircraft but our concern is a flock, like we saw in New York on the Hudson which is the most famous bird strike.”

Training takes place five days a week, with the crews sticking to a strict programme that includes smoke and fire, breathing apparatus practice and preparation for road traffic collisions.

“A huge amount of our time is spend training because we have to be prepared for anything, the airport itself is like a small town,” Keogh said.

For more on the DAA Fire Service, look out for tomorrow’s feature on the station’s smoke and fire simulator, as seen in the third video.

Related: 19 lives saved since introduction of defibrillators at Dublin Airport>

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Michelle Hennessy

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